The leaves are starting to turn gold and red and amber and yellow. It’s a sure sign of winter’s proximity. Ideas for a new television series start to come together.
If you like seasons then Ontario is the place to live. Autumn, or Fall as they say in North America, is a glorious time between the end of summer and the first frosts of winter. This year we were blessed with a near heat wave at the end of September, enabling the sailing season to extend by several weeks, a bit of extra joy for sailors. But now we’re packing up the gear and getting ready for haul out.
The red and gold of Ontario’s abundant deciduous forests make a spectacular backdrop to the season. The apple crop is in and we are on our way to see Thomas and Nicole at the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery. Nearby, the spectacular arborial display at the Forks of the Credit, where the river pours over the Niagara Escarpment, should be enough to delight any ardent dendrologist.
We have a splendid lunch at the Spirit Tree and both owners are present, chatting to the customers, taking them on tours of the cidery and generally being gracious. But the leaves are a disappointment. They’re about two weeks behind schedule, says Nicole. We’ll just have to come back next weekend we reply, already looking forward to another helping of outstanding apple, bacon and feta pizza from the huge brick oven. It’s a new offering on the recently revamped menu and already a hit with the patrons. It goes down well with a glass of sparkling tart cider.
Driving through the Forks of the Credit, which can usually be counted on for a spectacular Technicolour fall display, one can only be amazed by the overwhelming presence of the Ontario Provincial Police … and the lack of red leaves. Perhaps they’re here to arrest leaf rustlers, or those who dare park on the side of the road and actually stop to enjoy the scenery. No stopping signs are everywhere. But for the tourist or casual visitor, the scenery is worth the wait. One just has to be lucky and pick a weekend when the leaves are turning and the sun is shining.
Later in the week, I’m at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto’s Don Valley. What do you do with a 120 year old abandoned brick works? asks a sign at the entrance. The Evergreen people obviously have the right idea. Over the past decade or so, legions of volunteers have renovated the old industrial buildings and repurposed them, fixed up the disused quarry to become an entrancing 40 acre park and introduced such delights as a year round farmers’ market. I’m here to chat with the folks at the farmers’ market about their inclusion in my new television series, Market to Table – more on that another day.
Afterwards I take a stroll through the grounds. Clouds threaten on the horizon, but I’m spared the raindrops which hold off until I’m back in the car. Meanwhile, I gaze with awe at the bright crimson leaves of the sumach, ablaze on the hillsides. Birch trees are turning gold, maples are somewhere between amber and deep red. A group of talented and enthusiastic water colourists are capturing the scene in their sketch books. A week from now the trees will either be stripped bare by an early storm, or in full autumnal majesty. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when we come to shoot in the market the trees will provide a colourful backdrop for our scenes.
Last year we taped a show at the former home of Lucy Maude Montgomery, author of the endlessly popular Anne of Green Gable sagas. It was the height of summer, but our guide noted that Maude delighted in long walks through the Ontario countryside in autumn. We got to talking about Fall and our guide gave me a great quote from Anne: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” So true.
A happy Canadian Thanksgiving to one and all.
Update: Market to Table launches on May 16, 2016, on Bell Fibe TV1. The video on demand series will be available to viewers 24/7 for about three years.